Variety Made Easy

You went to the store, you made an awesome meal, you package it up for the week, and by the weekend you've thrown out half of it and are feeling discouraged.  That pretty picture on your Instagram with all its likes and shares is feeling phony as you think about the cookies you ate in the break room instead while it sat in the fridge abandoned.

 

I am not the type of person who gets bored eating the same thing over and over so a large batch of one thing works well for me all week. What I've learned though is that I'm lucky.  

 

Many clients have come to me asking for more recipes or saying that they are struggling to make themselves eat what they made by day 3. We're all busy though and most of us don't have time to make a brand new meal every single day.  I've talked before about how to keep it simple. So how do you get a little creative to find that variety you need without making life difficult? 

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Take Your Time

I've been a fast eater since I was a kid. My mom would get angry with me when I'd come in from playing basketball and inhale my food so I could get back out there to play. 

 

Later I went into the military. We didn't have much time for meals and I sure wasn't going to be last.  We were taught to eat now and taste it later.  

 

Basically I wasn't eating in the healthiest of ways. I wasn't giving my body time to send signals to my brain that I was getting full or letting my food settle before doing something active.  This usually led to burping and indigestion.  As I got older, this became more of a challenge for my body to overcome. 

 

Nowadays I work with people who have similar challenges. We don't have time to waste slowing down to eat. We're always on the run and time is money right? 

 

There are always a lot of things going on around us.  Many of my clients are multitasking constantly.  Food is gobbled as quickly as possible between other activities.  Kids, co-workers, friends, and even watching tv can distract us from noticing what we're doing. Goals aren't met.  Discomfort prevents being as effective as possible. 

 

So what are some ways to help us slow down and give our bodies time to digest so they can let us know when we have had the right amount? 

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Counting Crazy

The general rule of thumb is that if less energy (food) is taken in by the body than burned (exercise) there will be fat loss (and vice versa). Want to manage your weight? You just need to count calories right?  Sounds easy.

 

I don't recommend it.

 

The truth is that using calorie counting as a way to manage diet and exercise is actually time consuming and difficult. Even if you are 100% on top of writing everything down you still won't be very likely to have it right because calorie counting is typically extremely inaccurate.  

 

Food labels can have up to a 25% margin of error.  That means it is almost impossible to know EXACTLY how many calories are going into our body. Even if you could, it is hard to know with mathematical certainty how much your body will use.  There are many factors that go into how food is absorbed and used.

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Eating Out: What's on the Menu?

Preparing all of your own food at home is often encouraged when trying to stay on a nutrition plan.  How realistic is that though? 

 

Even if you could, do you really want to say no to every work dinner, birthday, and every other social event that comes along? 

 

There are several skills you can learn to help you stay on your plan AND still get to be part of the fun.  One of those is looking for keywords on a menu.

 

The following are a few words to avoid and words to look for to help you make better decisions when going out to eat:  

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Food Prep: Finding the Time To Shop

Food prep is one of the most necessary components of staying on your nutrition plan. It can also seem like one of the most overwhelming.  I've already talked about keeping things simple.  You don't have to turn into Martha Stewart for every meal. The fact is though that unless you have the funds to pay for a private chef, there IS a time commitment you will have to make. Grocery shopping is one of those necessary time-sucking evils. The good news is that there ARE a few ways to keep it from getting in the way of your success:

 

1.) Make a list: Taking a few minutes to make a list will save more time than trying to figure things out on the fly at the store. Going in without a plan is not only a good way to end up wandering aimlessly into the Doritos aisle but you may also end up having to make multiple trips to pick up the things you forgot about.  Take a second and review your list before going into the store. Commit to the plan. Execute the plan.  No wandering. 

 

2.) Use your technology: There are tons of apps, and many of them free, available on the smartphone you're already carrying around everywhere. Not sure what you want to make and you're already at work?  Epicurious can find a recipe for you based on ingredients you know that you already have on hand or want to include.  It can also automatically generate a shopping list from a recipe you choose.  If you're using a recipe from another source, they have also put out a list of grocery apps that can help with everything from simple lists to store specific shopping.  If you share grocery shopping with a spouse, partner, roommate, etc., OurGroceries is another list app that users in your household can access to see which items have been purchased, what you still need, and to make additions when necessary.  The paid version also allows photos to be uploaded if an item might be confusing for the person shopping or if you want to be clear that no substitutions are allowed.  Explore what is out there and you'll find one that fits your needs. 

 

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Recipe: Tomato Turmeric Soup

2-14.5oz cans fire roasted tomatoes

1 cup carrots peeled & diced (about 4-5 small carrots)

½ cup diced celery (about 2 stalks)

2  Vidalia Onions chopped

5 cloves chopped garlic 

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3 cups chicken stock (can substitute vegetable)

2 dried bay leaves

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

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Why Do I Always Fail?

It is true that if you aren't willing to put in the effort to make a change that no change will happen.  That doesn't mean though that any plan can work for you. You need to do your research up front. It is easy for anyone to go online and get a nutrition certification, offer a new product, or sell services and there is consequently a huge menu of options. What isn't always clear is that many of these services are generalized with limited options for customization. You sign up, plug your numbers into a formula, print out pre-made worksheets, count your points, maybe buy pre-made meals, and you're good to go, right? So why are you back in front of the TV with that tub of ice cream right now?

 

Diets and meal plans are typically designed to help a person reach a temporary goal. It isn’t as hard to deny cravings or give up social opportunities when there is an end in sight.  The problem is that once that end date has passed, there aren’t any new habits to stop you from washing down an entire cake with a keg of beer or crushing that whole plate of wings on a football Sunday if you believe that is what makes you feel good. Pretty soon you are back where you started. 

 

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6 Tips For Surviving Holiday Dinners

The holidays are a great time to spend time with family and a big table full of food.  We heap our plates as high as they'll go over and over again until the food coma hits.  Holiday calories don't count right? With multiple family parties, friendsgivings, and work celebrations, those meals we imagine to be "free" can really add up to a January where pants no longer button. 

 

Here are 6 tips to help you enjoy the season and avoid the regrets:

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Recipe: Easy Bars

These take almost no time to make and are great to toss in your bag on early mornings or on days where work might make it difficult to get to food when you should. 

 

1 cup packed pitted (important) medjool dates

¼ cup honey

¼ cup almond butter (or other nut butter)

¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 cup unsalted, roasted almonds 

1 ½ cup rolled oats

1 tablespoon chia seeds

 

If you can’t find roasted almonds, just get unsalted raw almonds from the baking aisle and place them on cookie sheet in cold oven, turn it to 350˚ and roast for 15 mins. Spread your oats on a cookie sheet and roast at 350˚ for 15 minutes or until they look at least slightly golden. While the oats are in the oven, chop your almonds in a food processor and set aside.  

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Keep It Simple

Grocery shopping and cooking for multiple dinners can be stressful and cause frustration when trying to stay on your nutritional plan. According to a survey by TNS Global, half of Americans report throwing away both leftovers as well as unused groceries at least once a week. Go look at your total grocery and restaurant spending for the last three months. Imagine having half of that cash in your hand and flushing it straight down the toilet. It sounds crazy when you look at it that way doesn’t it? 

 

The good news is that this can be avoided. When working on your meal plan, simple is best.  Think about one dinner that can be used for several meals. If you are someone who can’t stand to eat exactly the same meal for multiple days, there are still ways to repurpose ingredients to achieve some variety without all of the extra time and expense.

 

One example: take the blackened chicken recipe posted here.  Day one, that chicken can be served with some brown rice and steamed veggies. Day two, take some of the leftover chicken and make a wrap with a little hummus and leftover veggies or salad greens if the veggies are gone.  Day three, add some chicken on top of a salad with some mandarin oranges or raspberries and maybe some slivered almonds.  Right there you are able to get three different flavor combinations from one short cooking session while the fruit and almonds can be used up as snacks. 

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Is Lunchmeat Evil?

I grew up in Northern Michigan pretty much living on lunchmeat.  The refrigerator was always stocked with it and I’d just pile it on without a second thought. Nowadays the attitude has changed. Lunchmeat has been added to the “bad” foods you have to avoid on a list that keeps getting longer and longer.

 

Several months ago at a seminar I was asked if I thought someone was a bad mother for giving her kids lunchmeat.  She is a working mom and it isn’t reasonable to expect that she has the time to roast and slice her own meat all of the time.  She was concerned though that what she views as cutting corners might negatively impact her kids’ nutrition.

 

People trying to improve their nutrition find themselves under a lot of pressure.  Parents enduring the scrutiny of everyone around them struggle even more.  There has to be a point where we allow ourselves to be reasonable. Knowing that doesn’t make a person feel less guilty when they do something they think is “wrong”.  So is lunchmeat really that bad?

 

 

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Recipe: Blackened Chicken

This recipe is a quick and easy way to add variety to chicken dishes.

 

1.5-2lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon cayenne 

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon dried thyme (or ½ tablespoon fresh)

¼ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

 

Preheat your oven to 350˚. Mix your spices and rub chicken breasts with the mixture to coat. You can spice just one side but it is much tastier with both. Heat oil in a skillet over high heat until very hot when you hold your hand slightly above the surface (5 mins). Turn on vent fan. You may also want to open a window. If you are doing it right there WILL be smoke. Place chicken in the hot pan and cook for one minute. Turn and cook one minute on the other side. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake in your heated oven for 5-10 minutes until no longer pink and juices run clear. Variation: if you like spice, add 1/8 teaspoon dried habanero to your mix or more to taste. Serve alone, over salad, in a wrap with hummus, spinach, and peppers, or however you like.

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Probiotics: How To Be Friends With Your Gut

Guest Blogger: Dr. Lisa Profera, MD

 

The familiar phrase “you are what you eat” should really be changed to “you are what you are able to digest”. So you may be eating right, but is it being put to good use?  Over the last 20+ years, our knowledge of the crucial role that gut flora play in our everyday lives has multiplied almost as fast as bacteria. Nowadays we are being bombarded with so much information about probiotics and the microbiome of the gut, it is almost overwhelming. But fear not, I will help you digest (pun intended) the current data so that you can make an informed decision about what is best for you.

 

All probiotics are NOT created equal. Just as we all have different fingerprints, we all have different gut flora.  So a one-size-fits-all approach to probiotics just doesn’t work.  Your doctor may say, “just eat some yogurt and that’s all you need”. This may or may not serve you well. The strains of bacteria in most commercial yogurts have not been proven to be beneficial.  Just one capsule of a good probiotic can contain the same amount of bacteria in 37 cups of yogurt.

 

Let’s backtrack here for a bit. Our lower gastrointestinal tract or “gut” for short, is a highly sophisticated apparatus that is about 25 feet long (small intestines plus large intestines) responsible for converting the food we eat into absorbable essential nutrients while eliminating waste products. While we may have learned about the structure and function of the digestive system in high school Biology class, little was known or taught about the 100-150 trillion organisms than reside with in it. Yes, you read that correctly, there are 10 times more bacteria living inside our gut than there are cells in our body! Each individual has a different concoction of the thousands of known species and over 70,000 strains identified thus far. So really, we are just beings that harbor 5-6 pounds of bacteria in a nice warm, cushy environment. They are just doing us a favor by helping us digest our food and producing key vitamins to sustain life. They support 70% of our immune system, since they have a vested interest in us staying alive. According to the brilliant scientists that conducted the Human Microbiome Project, we are the human “supraorganism” and the microbiome (referring to our bacterial inhabitants) is a virtual organ within an organ. We cannot live without them and vice versa.

 

So you can decide if you want to be friends or enemies with your gut guests. Their composition and function (or dysfunction) is up to you: what you choose to eat, your lifestyle, your stress and your previous medical history. It all started at birth. The species and strains of your gut bacteria depend upon so many factors: vaginal delivery vs. C-section, breastfed vs. formula fed, your mother’s flora and her overall health, early exposure to antibiotics or not, previous illnesses, travel,  the list goes on and on. There are a myriad of factors that can lead to an unhealthy gut and consequently many diseases including indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, GI cancer, other chronic inflammation, and even type II diabetes and obesity.

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Recipe: Hummus

It's easy to make your own hummus at home!

Ingredients:

1-15oz can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)

1-minced garlic clove

1/4 cup of tahini

2- tablespoons olive oil

2-tablespoons lemon juice (fresh if you can)

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin

cayenne to taste

 

In a small bowl, whisk tahini and olive oil.  In a pourable measuring cup, mix water and lemon juice.  Drop garlic into a food processor and mince. Add chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and a pinch of cayenne and then process 20 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl and process an additional few seconds until everything is evenly ground (mixture will still be fairly course). Leave the food processor running and pour the water/lemon mix in. After a minute, you should see a smooth mixture (you may need to stop and scrape the sides).  At this point, with the food processor still running, add your tahini mixture and blend another 15-20 seconds or until mixed. Let your hummus sit (covered) for at least 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of paprika, parsley, cilantro, whole chickpeas, pine nuts, sesame seeds, or get creative! Note: You CAN use dried chickpeas if you have time to soak them overnight and then to simmer for an hour with 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda. If you choose this option, use the cooking water in place of fresh. 

                               Antioxidants

The body may produce oxidizing agents call free radicals naturally for a variety of purposes including the destruction of pathogens and energy production. However, when there are more oxidizing agents than the body can neutralize, it creates a state of oxidative stress.  Cancer, heart disease, and atherosclerosis are all conditions that can be tied to oxidative stress. Antioxidants play an important role in keeping free radicals in check. Therefore ensuring that adequate amounts of antioxidants are present in the body can help to eliminate some of the conditions that contribute to the development of these diseases. How can we do that? Citrus fruits contain high amounts of natural antioxidants.  Other sources include dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, alfalfa sprouts, carrots, seaweed, grapes, prunes, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, and broccoli flowers.

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                                                  PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS

Athletes do not need protein supplements to be successful or to achieve maximum amounts of muscle. Protein from whole foods is easier for the body to process and more nutritious. Are they better than nothing, fast food, or high sugar alternatives? Absolutely. But that should be the exception and not the rule. Sticking to whole foods on a balanced nutritional plan is always preferable. With planning and preparation protein supplements should rarely be needed.  Take the time you spend researching the newest supplement and work toward building better food preparation habits

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